Late last year, former Costa Rican Ambassador Jaime Daremblum testified before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Iran is using Nicaragua to establish a “strategic presence” close to the United States’ borders, just like the US has military troops stationed in the Middle East in close proximity to Iran.
“Iran wants to the do exactly the same thing with its presence in Nicaragua,” Mr. Daremblum said, starting a buzz that continues to reverberate in Washington.
What Iranian presence?
But back in Nicaragua, it’s hard to see what the hubbub is about.
Since Nicaragua and Iran renewed diplomatic ties in January 2007, the relationship has hardly evolved beyond lofty promises and ideological commiserating. Iran’s unlikely promises to build a $230 million hydroelectric plant and a $350 million deep-water port in Nicaragua are just as implausible today as they were in 2007.
Iran’s diplomatic mission in Nicaragua – three guys sharing a rented house – is “the smallest diplomatic mission in the entire American continent,” according to Iranian Ambassador Akbar Esmaeil Pour.
And contrary to rumors that Iranians are flooding into Nicaragua without visas to establish a beachhead against the United States, Pour insists the “Iranian colony” here is less than 40 people, many of whom have been here for decades.
The only visible Iranian investment in Nicaragua so far has been a $1.5 million health clinic, which poses more of a threat to flu symptoms than US national security.